This morning, Michael ran off ahead of me on the way to school as he usually does. (It seems there is something shameful about arriving at the school gates with your mum if you are nine.)
As I watched him running off, I saw him stop and turn and smile and say ‘hello’ to Nada. I don’t know if I have ever felt more proud.
Nada is recently from Saudi Arabia and wears hijab and niqab ( I think those are the terms – in any case she is completely covered, apart from her eyes). No one ever speaks to her on the playground and children, not surprisingly, often stare. That is why a few months ago I started to try to attempt very simple conversations with her which involve a lot of gestures and smiles. She has been round for coffee and has invited the boys and me to her home, too.
I never told Michael that he should be friendly to Nada. He just picked that up.
All the books about youth work that I am reading at the moment say something very similar. Children and young people are influenced by who we are. It is both frightening and wonderful.
When we moved into our new house last Autumn, there was one thing we loved straight away: the stairs. They’re lit by a large window and have a relatively spacious landing (for a modestly sized house). There is also a curious little cupboard half-way up.
This became our prayer stair and symbol for the way that we want to live but don’t always achieve. The cupboard now holds some Bibles (children’s versions and various translations), a candle, a cross and some other things to hold, a ‘prayer dial’ to help children and parents pray together some photos of people we want to remember to pray for regularly, and the inside of the cupboard doors are covered in post-its (Bruce Almighty- style) of some current prayer needs.
Most of the time, though, we just walk up and down our stairs and forget to pause. A lot like the rest of life.
The idea for this blog was to write about things that emerge from a life centred in prayer. Instead it will have to be things that emerge from a life that wants to be centered in prayer, that wants to pause on the prayer stair more often and wants to find more time for listening.